2013 GCSE / IGCSE / A Level Art exam topics

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2013 GCSE / IGCSE / A Level Art exam topics

Hello everyone! This thread supports our recent article providing inspiration/ideas/artist models for the 2013 GCSE/IGCSE/A Level Art exams (with possible interpretations of topics from different exam boards – AQA, CIE, Edexcel etc). If you are looking to gain or share ideas about your topic/s, please join the discussion below! Remember that those who interact and share ideas with others are more likely to gain a response from others.

(If you are looking for artist model ideas, please visit our Pinterest Boards!)

My exam title is Inside, Outside and In Between. So far I am struggling slightly to come up with an idea which isn't typical or obvious. I would love to hear your interpretations! Thanks

Outside and In Between ideas. You could do phases, such as inbetween seasons, or inbetween ages. (Both changes are visible on the outside, so that's another link in) Or layers, such as the layers of skin and bone. Hope this helps!

you could also look at how the baby of birds develop outside of the mother's body (in an egg) rather than inside

Thanks so much for your suggestions everyone! It really helps, thank you :D

you could look at eye colour, for example Hazel, is an in between colour, also people dying of an illness, they are in between leaf and death, they have an in between life..
hope that helps

My exam title is the upper part of a person trying on clothes for their next holiday. I’m struggling to come up with some more idea’s for my preparation and exam work. I would really love to hear your ideas.
Thank you


A topic like this is much more directed in its starting point (i.e. it involves less interpretation initially). Development (as explained here) becomes very important. I will add this topic to the list, but in the meantime you might like to peruse our Pinterest Boards for artist model ideas. Good luck!

hello everyone, i'm doing OCR A2 fine art and i've chosen the theme of rolling. so far my head is over flowing with ideas and i dont know where to get started it. i've changed my mind about ten times.

i'm struggling to have a clear idea that is not too literal.

at the moment i'm thinking of rolling as in cycles, like seasons or life cycles but don't know how to develop it further.
another idea i thought of was 'infinity' like gods, and i want to look at both human figures as well as animals. but not sure how this relates to infinity?

i also wanted to look at movement and show motion in my painting.

Hi Regina - will add this topic to my list. Stay tuned! If anyone else has ideas that would help Regina, please share! :)

Hi, you could thing of rolling as a change from something to another like changes from morning to night

hi, my exam piece for art is on the topic of "force". I am stuck for ideas, it can be about pretty much anything. We have looked into smaller categories based on the word that will help with ideas. They are - people, imagination, places, activities, world and objects.

I have no idea what to do. I need to pick one out of the six, and then come up with a load of different ideas before picking a final one. i had one idea and that was to pick 'people' and paint about the force of decay - how we all will get older and will age and there is nothing we can do about it. i am open to any suggestions whatsoever so if anyone has ay then please share. i really want to do a painting/drawing!!

I was reading an article on Imogen Reeve's blog that was all about forces and the different themes and artists you can look at!

Have also just found this Pinterest Board by a school Art Department who is collecting images of artist works related to Force

The topic for my exam is "OPEN", and it is a wide area, where you can do alot. I have an idea, that is Opening the Pandoras box, but my problem is that im confused how to start my work and i want to include portraits as well, im not very clear of how i am going to develop this idea and produce a good final picture.
I'm also thinking of doing openings inside this box for the final, but im not sure how i can combine these together?
Please it would be great if you have any ideas and help me to produce a A* work.

Hi Aruni, The phrase 'opening Pandora's box' (see wikipedia) refers to performing a small action that has far-reaching consequences. I would endeavour to think of some situation in your life where this idea applies, as the best topics are those which you have a strong emotional connection to. If you are thinking more along the lines of literally depicting actual boxes and their openings, this is probably a slightly different interpretation (but still a good one). Will add the ‘open’ topic to the article as soon as I am able – including some interpretations that relate to people / portraiture. Good luck!

hi there, my IGCSE exam board is Edexcel .Open is the topic. Iam stuck.
any idea/1.
can I do "open sea" or I should be more specific as my teacher said this is going to be vague.
any suggestion?

Hi Hussain - will add this to the article as soon as I am able. I agree with your teacher - 'open sea' is very vague. Depending on where you live, it might also be difficult to get access to quality first-hand imagery? If you are able to get out on a boat regularly, however, this is a different matter entirely! Good luck!

Hi Ms Amiria, I am a student studying A Level Art. your website is one of the best creations i've ever stumbled upon. I am now more informed about how to tackle my coursework but unfortunately still face some problems trying to develop upon the theme of "slowing down". As a student, I can relate a lot to "slowing down" my pace of life, what with all the demands and stress of an education system. However, I can't seem to be able to find a good visual device to propel my idea forward. I did think of fast food and it's 'fastness' and how people no longer have the time to take things at a slower pace... but it seems so hard to work on. Or the juxtaposition of pestle & mortar with a blender.(process is quickened) Development is a huge hurdle for me and time constraint is bearing it's weight on me.. hope you can help trigger some thoughts and ideas :) Thank you in advance. :-)

Hi Artstudent27, if you haven't read the following articles, these may help you:



Selecting good first-hand subject matter to represent your ideas is crucial. I suggest you think of things that relate specifically to the ideas you have mentioned (stress of an education system etc). Possibly classroom scenes / textbooks / crumpled exam papers / messy desk scenes etc? Does anyone else have any ideas?

Good luck!

Hi all - thanks for all the comments so far. It is absolutely fantastic to see students helping each other with suggestions too. This is what we were hoping would happen within the forum!

I have begun the article (here: http://www.studentartguide.com/articles/gcse-art-exam-2013) and am working as fast as I can to get additional topics added. Thank you for your patience!

hi amiria, can you also add
trompe l'oeil
taped tied bound

if it's not too much to ask .
thank you :)

Hi A2 Student,

Just letting you know that my creative brainstorming energy had been exhausted before I managed to cover all of these topics, however I hope your project is going well! :)

Hey Amiria :) Great job on the new website, it looks fabulous!
For my art project I was hoping to look at the 'Force of words' however I am unsure how to develop my project. Do you know of any artists who incorporate the force of words? Also, how do I come up with a final piece that is exam-worthy? Should I change my topic?

Thanks CupcakeMonster - how are you going with your project? Projects that are word-based can be slightly more challenging, as they are focused upon theoretical concepts without any clear subject-matter, but this is not to say that they cannot work. My gut feeling is that possibly you would be better to ensure your project doesn't focus solely upon text, but rather the communication of a particularly forceful message (something that relates to your life in some way)... so that you can include subject matter related to this... Does anyone else have any ideas? Or has anyone else completed a text-based project?

Hello, i'm doing OCR A2 fine art and i've chosen the theme Taped, Tied and Bound and am having problems making my ideas flow in my sketchbook so i would like some advise from you on how to make it outstanding.

Hi Lessboss - making your project outstanding is less about coming up with a million great ideas, and more about the quality of work you produce in relation to the main idea / concept that you focus on. Have you chosen an topic interpretation and subject matter to start with? Once you have, this article about development may help: http://www.studentartguide.com/articles/a-level-art-coursework-development, and possibly our recent article about sketchbook presentation ideas: http://www.studentartguide.com/articles/art-sketchbook-ideas). 

Good luck!

Hi Amiria, love the new website layout :)

I was given my exam paper (A2 Art & Design, AQA) about 3 weeks ago, but I haven't started (my art teacher is going to kill me!), because of university and home problems. I've found difficulty choosing between the topics, 'issues' and 'layers', because I can't really think of ideas around these topics. For layers, I quite like the ideas of layers in application of mediums, like screen print and carving into materials. Also, I was thinking of possibly looking into typography. Could you help please?

Many Thanks

Hi Jeevan, how are you going with your project! I strongly advise just starting - as producing quality work takes a long time! Many students fret over selecting the 'perfect' starting point for far too long! :) 

'Layers' relating to the application of mediums is more related to technique, rather than a theme or subject-matter. (In other words, using layered mediums could be a successful way of exploring any number of different topics...it is not a topic in itself). On the other hand, the interpretation you choose could very well be explored in this way. For example, if you chose to focus on the way memories blur and distort over time (ideally focusing on a particular memory - or set of memories - that relates to your own life), you could use layered mediums to convey ideas about concealing / obscuring / distorting of imagery etc.

Have you read this article about A Level Art ideas? It might help! 

Good luck!

Hello everyone,
For my CIE exam question I decided to do the interpretive study on the word 'Juxtaposition'. I've been trying to brainstorm for a specific theme, but I feel like my ideas are too vague. I thought of juxtaposing different mediums and styles in my exam piece. Any suggestions?
Thank you.

your idea is great! what about juxtaposing a figure and the background, such as poverty in a palace, blind people in a cinema etc. with a surreal approach.

btw how's your progress so far? Just want to know if i am behind

Thank you for your suggestion! I really like the idea of having people who are out of place in their settings. So far I have been researching for surreal artists and sketching out a few ideas. Right now I'm finishing up my coursework , and although my exam is in late May I want to have a good start on the question before I get busy.

Hello Fawst and Sijin,

Just checking that you know Juxtoposition has been added to the 2013 Art exam article: http://www.studentartguide.com/articles/gcse-art-exam-2013. Hope your projects are going well!

Hi Amiria,
I'm in the process of preparing for my CIE IGCSE Art exam. Could you please update the page and provide us with some ideas on these themes: overhanging, passageways and stretching? Thank you so much. your website has proven to be an invaluable source of inspiration. :)

Hi Nicholas,

Unfortunately I haven't had a chance to add these topics to the list (my brainstorming ability has been temporarily exhausted :) - however I would love for others to make suggestions. Does anyone have any ideas for 'overhanging', 'passageways' and 'stretching'? Looking forward to your thoughts!


Hi everyone! I have added some extra exam topics to the article – but unfortunately have not managed to get through them all. I encourage you to share ideas and help each other with ideas - we have a great group of passionate art students here – if you interact and help others you are more likely to get responses / feedback to your own queries! Thank you TheDarkfellProject for sharing the Force resource above! I have also found helpful resources located at Art2day (AQA and Edexcel, for all levels) and also the Saatchi Gallery website (on lower right of screen). So great to see everyone’s ideas being pooled. Looking forward to more great interaction between you all!

thank you so much for your help Amiria.
my theme is 'taped tied bound' and i'm not sure if i want to look at animal's in captivity or just phobias and fears

Hi Maria,

Not sure if you have selected a topic by now, but it depends on a range of factors (most of which are individual to your circumstance), so it is difficult to say which of the two suggestions would be best for you without knowing more information. For ideas about what makes a good topic, I recommend reading this article about A Level Art Ideas. You need, for example, access to quality first-hand imagery, so 'animals in captivity' would only be ideal if you had easy access to a zoo...or birds in cages etc (or something else along these lines). The second option would probably require focusing on one particular phobia or fear, so that you had direction about what to include as subject matter. I recommend reading that article...it outlines some of the things to check for when selecting a topic etc.

Good luck! :)

Does anybody have any ideas about how to approach the theme "Animals" in an original way?

If you're also good at portraiture, you could take animals that look like humans or their owners, and make comparisons of them in your art, that would be fun?

Why not try to merge human faces and animal bodies / specific features together? Just an idea (:

Great suggestions LizzMorrish and Jeevan14!

I also recommend looking at artist work that is based on animals. Often this is the easiest / fastest way to pick up great ideas (feel free to look through our Pinterest Boards - especially the Drawing, Painting and Photography sections - there are many, many artist works that explore animals in a interesting / crazy / unusual way). Ultimately, however, it would be ideal to explore something that has personal relevance to your own life / situation. i.e. an issue you feel strongly about...i.e. issues relating to animals > meat > slaughter etc (just a random example).

Good luck!

I've chosen to do TAPED, TIED and BOUND (A2 Art and Design OCR) for my exam, and I really want to go down a dark route with it and do hanging and torture, I have some great orginal ideas, but can't find any artists for my art history side of the course! help?

Hmmm, an artist that springs to mind is Justin Mortimer. His works are pretty awesome / scary / depressing (often to do with crime scenes etc). Viewer discretion advised! :)

Hi, this blog has been a massive help for my GCSE art coursework. Im in year 10 now and have been entered for my exam a year early, so im still quite unsure of what developmental work i should do in order to get me the most marks. Im just starting my exam prep now, and i have chosen the theme 'Movement'. I have decided to explore the movement of crowds and so far i have gone out and taken loads of photos of big groups of people moving. I have looked at changing the shutter speed so that the moving parts of the picture (the people) blur a little bit, which captures the movement. What things can i do to exlplore this theme best? i know it has alot of potential, but i still feel kinda new to it all and im not sure what will get me marks! any help would be greatly appreciated!!

Hi elise-may!

Not sure if you have read this article about development? It was originally written for A Level students, but the basic concept applies to GCSE too. 

You might also be interested in the artist David Kapp. There are not many paintings on his website, but if you google image search him you will see lots of his blurred crowd paintings.

Good luck!

can someone please tell me how i can show family ties, like what objects can i draw other than people.
i'm doing taped tied and bound. and so far i can only think of the family of pigeons in my balcony

Hi A2 Student,

Family ties could possibly be explored through old family heirlooms, or crumpled family tree diagrams...or more random things, like strings literally stitching / tying family photographs (or people) together.

On another note, something to do with the family of pigeons on your balcony sounds really original and promising! 

Hi I'm kinda new here :) I'm currently studying GCE N level arts at my school in Singapore ( a secondary education,thus why it's so different from all the GCSE stuff i'm so confused about @.@) For my mid year exams this year I'm doing my art topic on the theme titled " Expansion". One may probably think that "hey, expansion's not bad! I can think of lots of things!" But i just can't seem to rack my brain for an idea!! I'm interested in depicting about the human body/emotions/problems or obstacles we face in life, but i just don't know how i can show that it can be related to Expansion :/ Help would be very much appreciated :O

Hi Bethluvscookies,

Everyone is new here - this site was only launched a few weeks ago :)

I recommend reading this article about how to come up with a good Art project idea - it applies to most qualifications, even though it was written specifically for A Level Art. Hopefully it will give you some tips that can help. One way that expansion could be related to the human body/emotions is with our human tendency to exaggerate/expand/multiply small problems until they become big dramas...i.e. the way our brain dwells on things / fret about things / magnify issues etc? Just a suggestion! Looking forward to any ideas from anyone else!

Good luck!

Hi, I'm doing GCSE art, and i'm in year 11 so my final exam is coming up, the only problem is that i still haven't decided on a topic.. My exam board is AQA,and I'm doing 'Art and Words' , and i wanted to focus around the topic of bones and the human body,and was going to link it in with the theory of evolution, and the evolution of man drawing.. I'm just not sure that those links will be strong enough with the theme.. I've got an idea for my final project, i just need some ideas for linking everything together.. Have you got any ideas?? I'm just stuck :/ Helpp:L